Mathieu joined CEVA Logistics as CEO in January, 2020 having spent 25 years in the logistics and shipping industry.
I have been in the logistics and shipping industry for 25 years – except for six years when I left this beautiful business to launch a start-up with friends in my garage, producing a product for opticians.
I came back to shipping and to CMA when CMA acquired Delmas, and spent 8 years dealing with the Africa business of the group. Then I spent two years managing the “bits and pieces” that had been acquired by CMA: trucking, container repair, container freight stations and warehousing. This was all put under one umbrella which I managed for 3 years! This was my first taste of real logistics. Then I headed for more than 3 years the global sales organization of CMA CGM with its agency network, its regions, its global sales teams and its product desks.
On January 15, 2020 I took over as CEO of CEVA. I like challenges and new situations: CEVA is a very large company, with a very broad product portfolio, and a lot of good things were happening in the company. But it needed a new direction.
There are many things to do, building on solid foundations and taking this company into the top league. I like transforming organizations: you have to stir up the whole movement, build strong teams, tell people where you’re going, and get people to trust you and believe in you.
The leaders that inspire me, and I would like to live up to, were always humble: they knew it was not about them but about the whole team. They listened, and were not afraid to take decisions. When you make decisions you have to live up to your words, and act quickly. It’s like a sprint: if you don’t run it quickly you lose people because they tire.
Sometimes you make mistakes - and you need to acknowledge them and correct them. Finger pointing is a very bad habit; it’s a symptom of something that is not working properly. The biggest mistake of all is if you don’t admit you made a mistake.
Good leadership is about giving people a chance: and when you get that chance you should always remember that someone gave you that responsibility and it doesn’t belong to you. Because there will be someone else who follows after you; it’s not all about you.
So my purpose is not to make a career for Mathieu Friedberg, (that’s just a by-product): it’s about growing the business because with growth come opportunities, for the company, for the employees, for the customers. Growth allows you to try new things, be even bolder .
Humans are social beings, and I believe that to get things done you need leadership: you need somebody who can take the lead for a time. But leadership is not a given: it’s like somebody lends you something. You are the servant of your responsibility - you take temporary ownership, it’s difficult to build a sense of purpose, because organizations are complex.
You see leadership everywhere: even in school you see some kids taking a leadership role. It’s organic, and a matter of time. And the leader of today is not necessarily the leader of tomorrow.
I try to delegate, to empower, to maintain a fast but achievable pace. A team is like a band, and so I have to beat the drum. But not everyone can work to the same beat, so I need to take care of my team members individually, and also find the right balance individually.
I’m not afraid to conduct post mortems about what worked and what didn’t work. I share my doubts, I ask for advice and challenge people, and I debrief regularly. I’ve found too many managers not having the necessary interaction. Feedback is important.
I constantly remind myself that sometimes people are different to me, and don’t react the same or do things the same as I do. Sometimes I may be tempted to say “that is not what I want.” But I try to take a step back and let it be; let the other person do it his or her way, and see how it works. There needs to be the right level of freedom to let people do things their own way. What matters is a good understanding and agreement over what we want to achieve; and don’t spend too much time on the how.
COVID-19 obviously has shaken up a lot of things and was very difficult, but it has also been a huge window of opportunity that has accelerated our progress. Within just a week or two, we had embarked on this transformational journey; it has been a huge education for me. If we hadn’t had COVID-19 we could have taken much more time. Other companies have taken years.
Sometimes in life you need to jump. And sometimes you don’t get everything right: there are things you cannot control and there is risk, but you just have to take the leap anyway. It is a liberating experience, even though you are off balance. And then there was an accelerating pace. And it was not me, but our managers and employees who made it happen. It’s still ongoing today.
I want to see leaders that take ownership, feel responsible, are willing to accept feedback, and have a sense of purpose that goes beyond themselves.
We can make further progress on global talent management. There are good things happening – for example, how our LATAM talents are now spread around the world. We need to take down the barriers and agree over what we believe is good talent, and how we are going to nurture that talent and build good opportunities globally.
It’s a very empathetic, human, personal organization. CEVA has been going through a lot of changes, but it has proven very resilient. There is deep-rooted belief that this company can deliver and it’s very comforting to see that.
CEVA is agile and adaptable, and has proven it can do great things with surprisingly little. That’s a real strength: because if we give just a little more, huge things can be achieved.